The Marlborough District Council no longer has to respond to an Environment Court case that alleged forestry in the Marlborough Sounds fails to protect the marine environment.
The Environmental Defence Society (EDS) claimed in the Environment Court earlier this year that national forestry standards (NES-PF) failed to protect the coastal marine environment from the effects of sedimentation that come from forestry harvesting.
The society used forestry harvesting and earthworks in the Marlborough Sounds as an example to illustrate its case.
That meant the Marlborough District Council would be expected to respond to the court case, which the council opposed.
The council’s strategic planner Kim Lawson last week confirmed to the Environment and Planning Committee this was no longer the case.
“We subsequently filed submissions and entered into negotiations with EDS on the proceedings, which has resulted in EDS agreeing to withdraw the proceedings against the council, and by consent substituting the Minister of Environment as a respondent,” Lawson told the committee.
The report prepared by Lawson said the NES-PF was “secondary legislation” of the Minister for the Environment, and therefore, the appropriate respondent was the ministry.
Lawson had previously said it was unclear why the council had been listed as a respondent in the case.
In Marlborough it was recognised that the environment in the Sounds was sensitive, which meant forestry planting, harvesting and earthworks were not allowed within 200 metres of the coastal marine area.
“Apart from EDS using Marlborough as an evidential example in support of its case, the NES-PF are Government regulations, and the council has no power to change them if they are found to be in breach of the RMA and inconsistent with its statutory purpose.”
In an affidavit to the Environment Court, the EDS argued sediment effects should require “assessment” through a resource consent – but currently no resource consent was required under the NES-PF in low, moderate or high erosion areas.
However, Lawson said under the Proposed Marlborough Environment Plan, forestry in the Sounds was a “restricted discretionary activity” which meant it actually did require consent.
The Link Pathway is your ticket to an unforgettable adventure.
EDS chief executive Gary Taylor said in January a major cause of marine sediment was from harvesting activities undertaken by plantation forestry operations.
“This is particularly so during the approximately seven year ‘window of vulnerability’ post clear fell harvesting on high erosion risk land,” he said.
During and after high rainfall events, which were becoming more regular, harvesting on steep land was more susceptible to landslides and erosion, he said.
“This generates sediment that runs off into the receiving marine environment, smothering aquatic life. In the Marlborough Sounds, this pollution is resulting in significant adverse effects on marine flora and fauna.”